All posts by Stephanie O

The Ashley Group Named in the Top 20 Best Places to Work in Insurance

The Ashley Group has been named as one of the top 20 Best Places to Work in Insurance by Business Insurance and Best Companies Group in the Small Employer category. This program recognizes employers across the country for their outstanding performance in establishing workplaces where employees can thrive, enjoy their work and help their companies grow. This is the second year they have been honored to make the list.


“We’re extremely proud of the team we’ve put together here at The Ashley Group and honored to have been named a Best Place to Work again for the second year in a row,” says Ashley Group president Tim Paradiso. “Our goal is to make The Ashley Group a place that our people want to be. Seeing where we rank year after year has become a valuable yardstick for making sure we’re achieving that goal.”


“Being named to Business Insurance’s list of the Best Places to Work in Insurance for 2018 demonstrates that The Ashley Group has built a culture in which employees are supported and engaged, which benefits their customers and the employers’ financial performance,” says Business Insurance Publisher Peter Oxner.


The Ashley Group was founded in 2002 and has approximately 30 employees between three locations in Northern Ohio. In addition to providing an affordable and comprehensive benefit package, they maintain a fun and friendly workplace built on a supportive, team-focused culture that nurtures career growth and development for every individual.


In the past year, The Ashley Group has taken even greater strides to improve their workplace culture by creating committees within the organization that are tasked with promoting and supporting the workforce’s values, including volunteerism, morale and personal education and development. They have also made efforts to identify the personal goals that each individual employee has for their lives in hopes of helping employees turn those dreams into a reality, be it in regards to professional development or the desire to take a vacation with their family.


“We recognize that our people spend more time at work than they do at home with their families, so it’s important to us to make sure that they can enjoy the time they spend here,” says Paradiso, “We want everyone to be happy in the work they do and to enjoy working with each other. It’s all about getting the right people and then supporting them to make their work lives and personal lives better.”


The Ashley Group is brokerage/consulting agency serving employer organizations of all sizes in both public and private sectors. The Ashley Group has a high level of experience and understanding of the health care and insurance industries in Northern Ohio that allows them to provide their partners with top-rated service and proactive, long-term strategy for health plan management.


Best Places to Work in Insurance is an annual sponsored content feature presented by the Custom Publishing unit of Business Insurance and Best Companies Group that lists the agents, brokers, insurance companies and other providers with the highest levels of employee engagement and satisfaction. Harrisburg, Pa.-based Best Companies Group identifies the leading employers in the insurance industry by conducting an assessment of company policies, practices and demographics, and reviewing the results of a confidential employee survey on engagement and satisfaction.

Four Tips for Managing Employee Eligibility

Submitting employee enrollment applications and coverage updates to carriers is something nearly all employers need to contend with when they offer benefits. It’s a task that no one finds to be particularly fun or exciting, but here are a few ways to ensure that it at least doesn’t become a massive headache.


  1. Make sure carriers are provided updates in a timely fashion

Most carriers give a little breathing room when it comes to deadlines for when they need to receive an enrollment application for processing – often within 30 days of the requested effective date of coverage.  However, best practice is still to get the application in their hands as soon as possible. Applications received after the deadline are only processed on an exception basis and it’s not guaranteed that those exceptions will be granted which could result in the employee not being able to enroll until open enrollment. We recommend setting a deadline for your employees that is stricter than your carrier’s to ensure that application is received on time.

And remember, the earlier you send an application to a carrier, the earlier the employee gets their ID cards in their hands. Remind your employees how much nicer receiving an ID card is versus getting their application rejected due to late submission.

The same rule goes for terminations. When the Affordable Care Act passed, carriers were required by law not to terminate coverage retroactively. There are a couple of exceptions, but as a rule a carrier can only retro terminate 60 days as an exception. Carriers need to be notified to terminate coverage for an employee. Any late notifications could result in you paying premiums on employees for days or even months when they weren’t even employed. Avoid wasting company funds by submitting those termination requests promptly.


  1. If your company pays 100% of the coverage premium, make sure you are enrolling all eligible employees

Many carriers have it written in their policies that when the employer pays 100% of the premium for coverage for their employees, they require all employees to be enrolled in that coverage. A good example is life insurance provided by a company for all full-time employees. If an employer is paying 100% the carrier is guaranteed to be receiving premiums for the company’s entire employee population covered, they can offer coverage at a discounted rate. This controls the adverse risk where only an employee that needs the coverage elects coverage.

When you don’t enroll an employee in coverage that’s 100% paid by the employer, you leave yourself open to some pretty substantial risk. If that employee files a claim with the insurance carrier, the carrier has the right to deny coverage if the enrollment was never submitted to them for that employee. If that happens, you as the employer could potentially be liable to pay that claim, which could be substantial in the case of a high-dollar medical procedure or a life insurance claim.

Best thing to do? Setup a system for yourself to remind you to enroll your new employees in any 100% employer paid coverage when they’re hired, either by adding it to your HR onboarding checklist or adding a monthly notification to your calendar to double check that you’ve completed that step for any new hires. It’s often easy to overlook, especially if the employee waived all other coverage, but it’s very important to remember what you need to do to avoid the consequences.


  1. Yes, they need to sign a waiver (and I know – it’s the worst)

Waiver forms can often be a pain to collect from employees, especially because employees don’t get something in return for filling it out (Submit an application? Get insurance. Submit a waiver? Get nothing. Where’s the fun in that?). Still, you as an employer need to have that waiver on file as proof that you offered coverage to your employee and they declined to take it. This protects you from potential fines or hardships down the road by giving you the evidence you need to show you did your due diligence by offering coverage to all of your eligible employees.

Our advice for getting those waivers signed and back in your hands? Don’t underestimate the power of free jolly ranchers as reward for good behavior.


  1. Audit your invoices

The greatest weapon you have against avoiding any common eligibility management pratfalls is the almighty monthly invoice audit. Invoices show you who your insurance carrier wants to be paid premium for. If your carrier wants money for an employee, that means they’re covered. If your carrier does not want money for an employee, that means they aren’t covered. Simple right? It really is! Review your carrier invoices every month to make sure any employees who need to be covered are (you may as well make sure they have the correct coverage while you’re at it), and that any employees who are terminated or otherwise shouldn’t be covered are not.

The best part? Carriers like getting paid, so they deliver those invoices right to you every month. How convenient and considerate is that?


Bonus Tip: Consider an online enrollment tool to make your life wonderfully, blissfully paperless.

Juggling paper is a pain. Tracking which employees are where in the enrollment process is a pain. Hunting employees down and reminding them to return the paper you don’t even really want back is a pain. Actually, managing eligibility at all is a pain. While we can’t entirely take the latter off of your hands, The Ashley Group can provide excellent solutions for the former. Just ask us! We love talking about it.

Record-Keeping and Your HSA

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) have become very popular in the insurance industry in recent years. Employers and employees alike are seeing the value in High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) paired with HSAs as a way of keeping premium low and tax-savings high. In a recent study from Kaiser Family Foundation, it was reported that 17% of firms offering health benefits offer an HSA-Qualified HDHP – a statistic that has more than doubled in the past decade.

But while employees know the advantage of having an HSA, can they confidently say that they know how to keep proper records for their expenses? Here are some tips for avoiding potentially expensive tax headaches down the road:


1. Documentation is Key
Prior to reaching age 65, funds in an HSA can only be used for Qualified Medical Expenses as established by law. It’s important to know what health services can be paid for by an HSA and what can’t. Non-qualified distributions from your HSA could face a penalty of 20% unless you can prove that your purchase was for a qualified medical expense. Hold onto any receipts for items or services purchased with HSA dollars as you’ll need those to protect yourself from penalties.

2. Hold Onto your HSA Statements
HSA providers send out statements either by mail or electronically just like any other bank account. These statements outline any contributions made by employers or employees, payments made out of the account, interest earned and any charged fees. Be sure to file these statements as they may be required in the event of an IRS audit.

3. Track Your Expenses and Payments
When it comes to money, keeping an eye on where it’s coming and where it’s going is always a good idea. It’s an even better idea when it comes to HSAs. While most HSAs come with a credit card or debit card, there may be times when a claim needs to be submitted on your own, in which case it might be easy to forget to use your HSA when the invoice comes. There may also be times in the year when you don’t have enough in your HSA to cover your expenses and you need to submit a claim for reimbursement as a later date. Tracking your expenses and payments will help you to know what you’ve submitted, what you’ve paid, and what still needs to be paid. Plus, it’ll help you hold onto that supporting documentation we clearly believe is so important. Speaking of which…

4. Maintain Your Records
It’s recommended that you hold onto your HSA documentation, purchase receipts, statements, and tracking records either for as long as you maintain the HSA or for as long as your income tax return is still considered “Open”, or subject to an audit – whichever is longer. Hang onto and Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) that you receive from your insurance carrier as documentation of your expenses for services that were covered under your health plan. If the IRS comes knocking, these are the things you’ll need to provide to protect yourself against any penalties.


This article is to be used for informational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice.

Kelly Belote Selected for Leadership Medina County Class of 2019

Kelly Belote, Vice President, North East Ohio recently was selected for the 28th Leadership Medina County Class, Class of 2019.

Leadership Medina County is “a nonprofit, educational and leadership development organization.” Founded in 1991, this group “exists to build and maintain a county wide network of talented, responsible, and dynamic leaders, who learn firsthand about issues facing Medina County and who serve by assisting in addressing those issues.”

The men and women selected for the class of 2019 are put through a thorough application process and interview process. They are chosen based on where they live, where they work, and their volunteer interests. As members of Leadership Medina County, these individuals will continue to grow their leadership skills and have an increased impact on their communities through their civic engagement.

We’re proud of Kelly for her commitment to Medina County and to her leadership role within The Ashley Group.

Read more about the Leadership Medina County organization and the 2019 Signature Class!

The Ashley Group Welcomes Sherri Rutter to the Team

The Ashley Group is excited to welcome local industry expert Sherri Rutter to their group benefits division as Employee Benefits Advisor in Maumee, Ohio.

Sherri Rutter, Employee Benefits Advisor

Sherri Rutter has been in the health insurance industry for 20 years. Most recently, she worked as Account Executive for Paramount Health Care for over 17 years where her responsibilities paired her with brokers and consultants to provide health insurance to employer groups in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. As Employee Benefits Advisor at The Ashley Group, Sherri’s primary focus will be to continue to help employers offer an employee benefits package that helps them attract and retain talent while meeting the company’s financial goals.

When asked why the decision was made to switch from an insurance carrier to a broker, Rutter responded, “I desired to be in a position where I could offer innovative solutions to my clients. Once I took a closer look at The Ashley Group and discovered the vast resources and industry knowledge they share with their customers, I knew they would be a good fit for me”.

“The Ashley Group is the best kept secret in Northern Ohio. I’ve worked with them from the insurance carrier side for years and have always admired the way they do business,” says Rutter.

According to Ashley Group President, Tim Paradiso, “We work hard to attract quality people and Sherri is a great example of that. We’re very pleased to have her as a part of our team. We’re confident that Sherri can deliver the value our clients have come to expect from The Ashley Group”.

The Ashley Group is a brokerage/consulting agency serving employer organizations of all sizes in both public and private sectors. With a high level of experience and understanding of the health care and insurance industries in Northern Ohio, The Ashley Group consistently provides their partners with top-rated service and proactive, long-term strategy for health plan management.

What do Employees Think of Health Insurance

Most Americans who have health insurance through their employer are not only satisfied with their plans, but many also feel their premium and deductible costs are reasonable – though they are concerned about rising costs, according to America’s Health Insurance Plans’ survey, “The Value of Employer-Provided Coverage.”

Luntz Global Partners conducted the survey on behalf of AHIP, querying 1,000 U.S. adults with employer-provided coverage. A majority (71 percent) of respondents are satisfied with their current health insurance plan, while 19 percent are dissatisfied and 9 percent say they have neither favorable nor unfavorable opinions.

More than half (52 percent) say their premiums and deductibles are reasonable, while 41 percent say their premiums are unreasonable and 36 percent say their deductibles are unreasonable. A few (7 percent) say their premiums are neither reasonable nor unreasonable, and 12 percent say that for their deductibles.

Most respondents feel their health plan “has their back,” protecting them when they need them most. When asked if they had a medical emergency and were required to go to the hospital, 75 percent of the respondents say their coverage would protect them from the majority of their medical costs, while 25 percent do not have confidence their plan would adequately protect them.

“Employer-provided coverage is a pillar of Americans’ health and financial security,” says AHIP’s president and CEO Marilyn Tavenner. “The results reaffirm that American workers and their families depend on their coverage to provide them with protection and peace of mind.”

“Employers and workers have good reason to be worried about rising healthcare costs,” writes HRDive, citing an Aon study that predicted health care cost increases will rise by 7.2 percent this year, up from 6.9 percent in 2017.

While the federal government has not been able to bend the cost curve, private companies are now trying to “transform the healthcare industry itself” – most notably Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway’s plans to form a joint healthcare company, HRDive writes.

“Details on the partnership are scarce at the moment, but the hope among industry leaders is that this and other private sector efforts will move the needle forward toward delivering savings to the average worker,” HRDive writes.

Read full article at

5 Benefit Trends to Watch in 2018

The battle over the Affordable Care Act, the consumerization of benefits, and the gig economy were some of the major headlines grabbing the attention of benefits administrators, brokers, and business owners in 2017.

So which trends will dominate and continue to define the benefits landscape in 2018?

Here are few hot topics to watch in the new year.

Benefits: The not-so-secret weapon in the war for talent

With the unemployment rate at a 17-year low, business owners and HR leaders are scrambling to find and retain top talent. Today, it’s not a matter of whether,but how to use benefits offerings to lure and keep people engaged. According to a study by the ADP Research Institute®, the cost of a benefits package is one of the top three factors that impact job consideration.

Innovative companies are realizing the importance of tying their benefits to their talent strategy. Employees want to feel that that their employer understands what they need in their life at every stage, so offering benefits that appeal to a multi-generational workforce is vital.  For example, millennials may value student debt loan repayment, where Gen Xers may prefer help with fertility treatment payments, and baby boomers may prioritize health benefits for chronic conditions. You need to ensure that every employee sees their benefits as part of their total compensation, which ultimately can contribute to better talent retention and recruitment.

Using data to effectively market and communicate benefits

Benefits mean nothing if you aren’t marketing them to both candidates and employees in an effort to continuously differentiate your clients’ company from the competition. Do your clients’ career sites accurately reflect the benefits they offer? Many companies underutilize this extremely important asset that can make or break whether a candidate even gives a  company a second look. Collect and analyze data to find out what’s important to the people your clients are looking to recruit and then highlight those benefits in job postings.

Also, use the company’s internal data to target employees in real-time. Instead of sending a broad communication to an entire employee population via paper or email, push information to specific employees during the decision cycle to let them know what benefits people “like them” are selecting.

Mobile benefits enrollment picks up steam

People are already using their mobile devices for some of their most important tasks—handling their finances, finding a date, driving from one location to another—so why should benefits enrollment be any different? Now that more than 10,000 boomers are retiring from the workforce daily and being replaced by millennials and Gen Zers, mobile benefits enrollment will soon explode. While the technology has been available, companies have been reluctant to put the entire benefits shopping experience in the hands of employees so they can enroll anytime, anywhere. This will change as more employees demand the type of online, mobile shopping experience they encounter in all other areas of life.

“Alexa, tell me about my health plan options.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) has revolutionized mainstream consumer technology through friendly, everyday voice assistants like Alexa and Siri. AI assistants like them will eventually help employees make data-driven benefits decisions.

As AI voice assistant technology continues to evolve, it will eventually be able to send targeted benefits communications in real time. For example, using employee data, AI technology can reach to certain employees who have a high deductible health plan and ask, “Have you considered enrolling in an HSA?” In turn, the employee can inquire further, “What’s an HSA” and the system can explain more, and even share past years’ benefits data to help the employee make a better informed decision. While still in the early stages, this type of targeted, intelligent benefits communication will continue to emerge in the coming years. The user experience of the future will not just be about what software looks like, but ultimately how a piece of technology engages with employees to help guide their benefits choices.

New and novelty benefits

Last year, new, non-traditional benefits included things like “paw-ternity leave” and wedding reimbursements. This year, a number of new, novelty benefits have begun to crop up. Instead of offering retention bonuses, some employers are now using non-interest-bearing loans that can go toward housing down payments as a retention tool. For example, employers might offer a $20,000 loan, which is decremented a few thousand dollars every year the employee remains with the company. Other companies have begun to explore offering genetic testingbenefits as a wellness initiative, and identity theft protection amid increasingly common personal data breaches.

As employers consider broadening their benefits offerings this year, it’s always helpful to consult a broker or benefits technology provider. These resources can help them understand what benefits are missing from their basket and help them pick the right policies so they’re affordable to employees. Remember: Don’t underestimate the power of benefits when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. Benefits offerings can provide that extra boost needed to not only get top talent through the door, but keep them there.


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9 Best Practices to Increase Engagement in Wellness

January 1 – the day marked by fresh starts and resolutions to lose weight, stop smoking or live a healthier lifestyle. More businesses hoping to make these positive changes stick for their employees are investing in employee well-being programs. But, much like the resolutions themselves, businesses can’t just launch a program and expect it to maintain itself. It takes continued work and a strong commitment.

Workplace wellness is a $40 billion industry and growing, according to estimates from the Global Wellness Institute. This money is being invested in well-being programs, which are designed to encourage healthier lifestyles, curb preventable chronic diseases and ultimately reduce health-care costs for both the company, and individual employees.

Creating sustainable, positive changes through a well-being program can be a challenge. To ensure success, encourage greater engagement and achieve the desired ROI, you should follow these nine best practices identified in a peer-reviewed study conducted by StayWell:

1. Garner strong senior management support

Fifty-three percent of employees who don’t participate in wellness programs cite lack of management support, according to To succeed, employees at all levels – from the executive suite to the manufacturing floor – need to buy in to your program. When designing a program, you must make sure it supports management’s sincere interest in employee well-being and also meets larger goals of reducing health risks and health-care costs, which, in turn, improve productivity and engagement.

2. Design a comprehensive program

Overall employee participation increases with comprehensive programs because more employee interests are addressed, according to Kaiser Family Foundation. To make a difference, your program should offer something for the 70 percent of the employee population who may not be ready to change their behavior yet, and address all aspects of well-being, including stress management and change resiliency, as well as all stages of disease progression.

3. Integrate incentives

Participation rates increase with appropriate incentives, according to StayWell research. Incentives must be designed to drive strategically important outcomes. These can come in the form of short-term initiatives that guide employees along a path to long-term, sustainable intrinsic incentives. Or you can use non-financial incentives, such as recognition for reaching certain goals or games in which employees compete against each other.

4. Develop an integrated, comprehensive communication strategy

According to research, 69 percent of employees who don’t participate in wellness programs cite lack of awareness. A solid communications strategy – which addresses employees’ reasons for not participating, provides feedback and recognition for participation, and leverages data to determine the most appropriate communications channels – will drive greater participation.

5. Have dedicated onsite program management staff reports that 75 percent of employees participating in well-being programs say that a personalized, customized approach from on-site experts and coaches is important. Greater engagement will occur if you have dedicated, certified well-being staff onsite as part of the program, and those individuals are available at times that are convenient for employees.

6. Leverage multiple program modalities

While TechCrunch reports that U.S. adults spend an average of five hours per day on their smartphones, it’s important to realize that many employees – especially those over age 50 or earning under $50,000 annually – may not have a smartphone. While you’ll want to ensure that the program maximizes employee convenience by being available at any time, from any location, through an app, it is equally important to offer in-person, mail and telephone-based options to engage, as well.

7. Utilize population-based awareness-building activities

When population-based cultural activities are part of the well-being program, participation rates increase, StayWell research reveals. You will want to include activities that increase social connectedness, including the participation of colleagues and managers. Additionally, chances of a program’s success increase if activities are linked to your company’s greater purpose or enables participants to give back to larger communities and non-profits.

8. Offer biometric health screenings

Employers reported lowered health risk and savings in healthcare costs when screenings were incorporated into their corporate wellness program, according to the HERO Employee Health Management Best Practice Scorecard. You’ll want to consider whether the program encourages employees to see their primary care physicians for biometric testing and follow up, and whether those results are included in the program. Also important to continued success is having screenings that provide instant results and in-the-moment education.

9. Encourage vendor integration

Integrating across all vendors to support employee well-being increases convenience for employees. For example, can an employee’s activity tracker and device data be leveraged to personalize the program? Additionally, the program should encourage referrals and transfers to collaborating vendors to achieve strategic outcomes.

Implementing these best practices can result in tangible benefits. The StayWell research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reports health risks declining by 4.7 percent in companies that employed these best practices, compared to just a two percent decrease at organizations that did not. Beyond employee health risks, these best practices can help businesses achieve tangible results and achieve their goals of improved health management efforts, higher program participation and lower overall health-care costs.

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The Ashley Group Recognized as One of the Best Places to Work in Insurance

The Ashley Group today announced it has been named in the annual Best Places to Work in Insurance program, which recognizes employers for their outstanding performance in establishing workplaces where employees can thrive, enjoy their work and help their companies grow.

“We’re extremely proud of the team we’ve put together here at The Ashley Group,” says Ashley Group president Tim Paradiso. “Our employees are passionate about the work they do and it shows in the way they support one another and support the goals of the company. We owe our success as an agency to their dedication and hard work.”

“Being named to Business Insurance’s list of the Best Places to Work in Insurance for 2017 demonstrates that The Ashley Group has built a culture in which employees are supported and engaged, which benefits their customers and the employers’ financial performance,” says Business Insurance Publisher Peter Oxner.

The Ashley Group was founded in 2002 and has approximately 30 employees between three locations in Northern Ohio. In addition to providing an affordable and comprehensive benefit package, they maintain a fun and friendly workplace built on a supportive, team-focused culture that nurtures career growth and development for every individual.

Best Places to Work in Insurance is an annual sponsored content feature presented by the Custom Publishing unit of Business Insurance and Best Companies Group that lists the agents, brokers, insurance companies and other providers with the highest levels of employee engagement and satisfaction.

The ranking and profiles of the winning companies will be unveiled as a sponsored content supplement in the November issue of Business Insurance and online at Check our our Careers page for more information on open positions!

The Ashley Value: Hear Our Story Firsthand

The Ashley Group has partnered with Hanson Inc. to shoot and produce a brand video that provides a glimpse at who we are and what we do. We are proud to now invite you to watch and learn about our value and our unique approach employee benefits:

Hanson is a digital marketing agency now located in downtown Toledo, supporting the revitalization of the community. Check out their website to learn more about their creative and engaging digital marketing strategies: